Child Language
Past Tense Verbs

By 4 years of age, your child's grammar skills are rapidly improving. Your child should be able to use the regular past tense verb form correctly in conversation.

For a quick grammar review, the regular past tense verb form is a verb with an -ed ending such as walked, climbed, etc... It does not include irregular past tense verbs such as ate, ran, etc... . 

Language Milestones Targeted

Expressive Language

Receptive Language

  • Uses about 500 words 
  • Speaks with 4+ word phrases 
  • Uses regular past tense verbs 
  • Understands 900 words 
  • Knows colors 

Flash Card Teaching Phase

What You Need: Regular Past Tense Cards

How To Use Cards: 

1. Print the cards or pull them up on some sort of device (computer, tablet, iPad, etc…)

2. First, you the parent, name a few cards and have your child watch and listen to show him or her what type of response you are interested in. For example, if you are working on regular past tense, point to a card and say “he kicked” or “yesterday, he kicked.” 

3. After completing 1-2 cards, ask your child to repeat your responses for 2-3 more cards. 

4. Once, your child has learned the pattern, encourage him or her to name the cards without your verbal model. aka...all by him or herself!

Tip: My recommendation is to repeat this task a few times in a row for about a week or so. Once your child seems to be “getting it,” move on to games the below. They are more functional and this will help to carry-over progress into everyday speech!

House or Farm

What You Need: A house, farm, or any toy with little people, animals, or cars

How To Play: Get on the floor or sit at a table with your child. Have a toy perform some sort of action such as kicking a ball, jumping, getting dressed etc… Then, ask your child…”what did he just do?”

Hopefully, your child will answer using the regular past tense verb form. If he or she doesn’t get it right, say the correct response and ask him/her to repeat it. 

Tip: To make this game less like a quiz and to model correct grammar for your child, make sure to have your child perform an action with a toy and you narrate the action using the past tense!

Reminisce About the Day

What You Need: Nothing!

How To Play: Before bed, talk about the day using the past tense. In this activity, the past tense verb forms happen very naturally. However,. open ended questions can be difficult for this age group so I suggest asking specific questions.

Some examples:

  • What was your favorite part of the day?
  • What TV show did you watch?
  • What did you like at dinner?
  • What did you do at the park?
  • Who did you play with today?

After you ask a question, wait for your child to respond. If the response is correct using the regular past tense verb form, praise him or her and ask another question.

If your child doesn’t use correct grammar, say the correct response and ask for a repetition. Then, move on to a new question.

Tip: Try to make this game fun and enjoyable. Don’t turn it into a quiz! Don’t over correct either or your child will start avoiding it. After a few nights of the same routine, your child will start to pick up on the correct answers! 

Also, take turns yourself so your child hears lots of correct past tense grammar. 

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